Ei Mei Kan - February - 2018

A Thirty Year String of Pearls

by Tim Sullivan

One of Chris Mooney Sensei's favourite quotes, as anyone who has trained at Ei Mei Kan or Gen Sen Jyuku can attest, is from the composer Gustav Mahler:

``Tradition is not the worship of ashes, but rather the passing on of the flame.''

(Appropriately, Mahler may himself have been passing on the flame of this quotation from earlier scholars!) Whatever its origin, this saying captures an essential truth of life: everything changes, we are caught in a stream of life and not standing in a lake; nothing can be preserved in stasis for time immemorial.

This quotation is also a particularly appropriate sentiment this year as Gen Sen Jyuku celebrates thirty years of Aikikai Aikido at the University of Warwick. Even more so than a traditional ``permanent'' dojo, a university club is forever in flux: very rarely will members remain longer than three or four years. It is a remarkable achievement that Warwick Aikido has maintained a thread of common identity for so long --- or, perhaps, as the traditional symbol of a thirtieth anniversary, one should instead call it a string of pearls?

Of course, a big factor in this continuity is the steady presence of the teachers, from Grubb Sensei through Cope Sensei to Mooney Sensei. However, the passing on of the flame by thirty years of ordinary members, executive committees, and presidents, is equally praiseworthy, if not more so. As the saying goes, a leader with no followers is just someone taking a walk.

My own relationship with Aikido at Warwick started in 2000. I was an unlikely student of the martial arts, never especially sporty at school, but something about Aikido caught me and never let me go. I have two main memories of those early days: being entranced at Fresher's Fair by a video of Chiba Sensei demonstrating suwariwaza; and the energy and intensity of David Cope Sensei's classes. I am happily indebted to him for guiding my first steps in this Art. Of course, I probably would not have stayed if there had not been a camaraderie among the students as well, so, once again, the members deserve their vote of thanks.

The greatest influence on my Aikido has of course been Chris Mooney Sensei. If Cope Sensei introduced me to the land of Aikido, it has been thanks to Mooney Sensei that I have taken the long walk through it --- sometimes under his compassionate but also uncompromising (in the best sense of the word) guidance --- and sometimes alone, guided only by my own sense of direction, which his tutelage honed. This is a deep relationship, lasting half my lifetime, for which I am deeply thankful. On the technical and personal level he embodies a freshness that is truly out of the ordinary in a cynical, know-it-all world, an example that I continue to try --- and fail! --- to learn from.

Aikido has brought me into contact with more rewarding people and experiences than I could ever have imagined. It has carried me around the world. It has grounded me in times of crisis. That wasn't the plan, and I don't study Aikido for that kind of instrumental reason. In fact, the mindset of ``no gaining idea'' is one of the most powerful aspects of Aikido --- a necessary medicine for our hectic times. I am grateful, though, for having had the opportunity to be a part of this river of experience, to study something that has been passed on for generations and will be passed on further. I have been privileged to have a close relationship with Warwick Aikido, training there for ten out of the last eighteen years, and it has been a particular pleasure to see so many students find something personally important to them in the Art.

Congratulations to Gen Sen Jyuku and all its members, past and present, on this auspicious occasion. Enjoy the celebrations, and the experiences yet to come. And keep passing on the flame!


Below are some other articles from our members which may interest you.